How much does it actually cost to land a new job? The answer, unfortunately, is that it depends. A CareerBuilder survey reports that 27% of job seekers who incurred expenses during a job search spent over $200, primarily on clothing (39%), transportation (22%), and travel (21%).
If you’re looking for a job in your field in your local metro area and your resume is current and in reasonably good shape, you might get away with just budgeting for gas money or bus fare and the cost of printing a few extra copies of your CV.
But if you’re job-seeking in a new city, either trying to change careers or digging in for a prolonged job hunt, your costs could be considerable. Depending on your situation, you might need to budget for an interview outfit or two, transportation to and from the interview, career coaching services, resume writing help, job training, and more.
The good news is that not every cost is non-negotiable—and with a little preparation and ingenuity, you can often find similar services for less money. Keep reading for the seven best ways to save money during your job search
One of the best ways to save money during a job search is to save time by getting organized. You don’t need to shell out for expensive software or organizers to do this. Chances are, you already own many productivity tools that are perfect for organizing your job search. Create a job application spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel or Google Drive. Use your smartphone’s built-in apps and features to keep track of your deadlines or create alerts and appointments in Google Calendar. Download free job search apps from Indeed, Glassdoor, CareerBuilder, and more.
Borrow Interview Clothes From Friends and Family
To make a good first impression at a job interview, it’s essential to dress appropriately. Even if the interview process is remote and you’re interviewing via Zoom or Skype, you need to dress the part. Depending on the company culture, this can mean anything from business casual attire to a business suit and dress shoes.
It pays to do your research. While it’s best to err on the side of dressing up more rather than less, you don’t want to go too far in either direction. For example, if you’re interviewing at a startup, a business suit might give the wrong impression.
If you don’t have the perfect interview clothes in your closet (or in your current size), don’t assume that you’re stuck buying something new. Network your way into a new outfit by asking friends and family if they have appropriate clothes to share.
Check out online fashion and consignment sites such as Poshmark, ThredUp, and TheRealReal for buying bargain fashion attire. Failing that, hit up your local thrift store or consignment shop. You may be surprised by what you find.
Avoid Paying Out of Pocket for Travel Expenses
One of the biggest expenses for out-of-town job interviews is travel and accommodation. Airfare, train tickets, gas, car rentals, and hotel reservations can run into big money quickly. You might end up paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars before you’ve even set foot in the company’s offices.
But you might not have to pay the whole bill yourself. Some companies will pay for travel and accommodation expenses. Nervous about asking who pays? Consider asking if the company will be making travel arrangements on your behalf. If they say no, then you can think about whether to negotiate for reimbursement.
If it’s early in the interview process and the employer isn’t picking up the tab, you can also ask if they’d consider a video interview or phone call at this stage. Then, if things go well, you’ll know that your investment in travel expenses for the next interview is more likely to pay off.
Many employers are conducting the hiring process—from interviews to onboarding—online. You may even be able to get hired for a job you’ll do in-person without incurring any extra expenses.
Try Free Job Search Sites First
Job search engines and job boards are useful sources of listings for many job seekers—and many are free to use. Focus the online portion of your job search on these free sites first and save yourself the cost of monthly subscription fees. Try some of the best job sites to see which provide the most opportunities that are a fit for your interests.
Want vetted listings in a niche job market? Many sites that charge a fee offer a free trial period for new users. Just be sure to make a note in your calendar to cancel your account, so you don’t wind up paying for a subscription you no longer need.
Upskill Yourself for Free
If you’ve been job searching for a while and aren’t having much luck, it may be time to add some new skills to your resume. And you might not have to take on a hefty tuition bill to do it.
Your first step should be to identify the skills that will impress employers the most and make the biggest positive impact on your bottom line. One way to do this is to review the qualifications of your peers in your field, either by looking at their LinkedIn profiles or scanning job ads for your targeted job title.
Want to learn more about training programs, apprenticeships, or certifications? CareerOneStop is the U.S. Department of Labor’s career and training hub, with links to resources that can help.
Reach Out to Your School
Career coaching, help with writing a resume and cover letter, assistance with finding job leads, career networking resources, and practice interviews can help your job hunt be much more successful than if you’re doing it on your own.
If you graduated long ago, your college career center might not be your first thought when you're job searching—but it should be.
Career services centers often provide free networking resources, resume and interview help, and career assessment services to alumni, even if they aren’t recent grads. Your school’s website should provide more information on remote services for alumni and how to get in touch.
Save Money on Technology
Few job seekers can manage without technology these days, even if they’re in brick-and-mortar industries that rely heavily on networking connections. But if you’re looking for a place to save money during your job search, now’s a good time to review your monthly expenditures on mobile service, internet, and other essential technologies.
Save money on your cell phone service by using prepaid plans, bundling services, or switching your plan to one that more closely matches your usage patterns. Bundle your internet and cable—or cut the cord and ditch the landline. You can call your current service providers and ask about discounts for veterans, students, AAA, AARP, and other organizations.
Just be sure you don’t make any changes that jeopardize your ability to connect with potential employers, like switching to a less reliable cell service, for example. You don’t want to drop a call with a hiring manager just when they’re making a job offer.